Leukemia Journal, Jan 15, 2017 – A closing word

It is with great sadness that we share that Sharon Pedersen died on January 15, 2017, in her sleep at home. Below are the remarks given at her memorial by Ethical Society Leader Kate Lovelady.

Although she officially joined the Society not that many years ago, Sharon wrote she first found the Ethical Society in 1985, when we were hosting an interfaith dialogue on women’s reproductive rights. Sharon described the dialogue as “life-affirming and life-changing,” a living example of her deepest hope–that “people of goodwill, whatever their beliefs, can learn to hear and understand each other, and can choose to live in respectful community.”

This ideal Sharon not only hoped for, but tried to live out. Whether traveling the world or in her everyday life, she celebrated the differences between people and sought to bring people together. Even her hundred-species native garden was a perfect example of how she brought together diversity and harmony.

Sharon wrote to me, not too long ago, “I am proud of the good things I tried to do in the world, and the good things millions of others, no matter what their political positions, do in the world. . . .  I believe decency and kindness will prevail in the long run.”

With her faith in humanity, Sharon immediately became at home at the Ethical Society. Even after she became ill and could no longer be around crowds, she continued attending small-group meetings–to practice mindfulness meditation; to share her personal journey and to support others’; to discuss the ongoing ethical evolution of humanity, which so concerned her.

Right up until the end she was still reading, learning, being forthright about what she thought, but also always asking questions and passionately interested in what others thought, always seeking to build community and connect with people in meaningful ways. She had a remarkably curious mind, and a remarkably generous spirit. Spending time with Sharon was always stimulating and inspiring. She will be missed in our community and many others.

I wanted to find a suitably literary reading, but as I reflected on Sharon as a gardener and an Ethical Humanist, the words that kept coming to me are actually from folk singer Pete Seeger:

To my old brown earth, and to my old blue sky,
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I”–
And you who sing, and you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain.
Watch well you keep it strong, as long as sun will shine.
And this, our home, keep pure and sweet and green.
For now I’m yours, and you are also mine.”

Sharon’s body returns to the earth; her memory lives in our minds and hearts; and her life’s work—-to create a world with more thoughtfulness, kindness, and care—-is now in our hands. May she always live in us.